Galaxy Buds are the longtime workhorse of Samsung’s premium line. Perhaps the fact that they’re nearly always launched as a kind of afterthought to flashier phablets and foldables. Maybe it’s the fact that they’ve always kind of been quietly good and therefore not deserving of an overhaul like, say, the Pixel Buds.
You can’t blame the fact that they’re built specifically for Samsung devices. That’s essentially how the market is now. For most people with most phones, I generally recommend purchasing buds from the same company that made your handset. Devices that are designed together tend to work better together.
Certainly that’s the case here with the Pixel Buds. They’re a great pair of headphones that work better with Galaxy devices. You can certainly pair them the standard Bluetooth way with any phone, but you’ll lose certain key features — including two of the biggest new differentiators: auto device switching and 24-bit audio.
The latter, mind you, is also one of the bigger selling points for the Pro upgrade over the standard Galaxy Buds 2. The new Pros run $230. The standard Buds 2 are currently priced at $100 less on Samsung’s site. As usual, I’d recommend Galaxy device owners pick up a pair of Galaxy Buds if they’re looking for the most frictionless existence.
That ultimately brings us to one key question: Is there enough here to justify the extra $100 to go Pro? These new buds have plenty going for them, but that’s hardly an insignificant fraction of the overall price. And listen, it’s rough out there right now. If you can save $100, go for it.
The Buds 2 and Buds 2 Pro look a lot like one another. That’s in keeping with the company’s relatively understandable approach to the category. Purple color option aside, the design seems largely intended to keep a low profile — a perfectly good goal for a pair of wireless headphones in 2020. The new Pros are, however, a bit slimmer and lighter than their predecessors — 15%, according to the company.
Fit and comfort are — of course — even more subjective and highly variable than even something like sound quality. We’re shaped and sized differently. It’s one of the great wonders of this crazy little thing we call life.
I found the buds to be plenty comfortable in my ears. They’re well-sculpted, with a nice weight that doesn’t put too much pressure on the ear — making them good for longer listening marathons. Though, for my money, Sony’s Link Buds S are still the most comfortable pair on the market.
The Buds Pro also stayed in place fairly well on a run, though if exercise is your main use for a pair of buds, I’d recommend going in on something purpose-built like the Beats Fit. Each design has its own pluses and minuses. These are among those that are quite good at staying out of their own way. The downside of the rounded design is it compromises some of the touch surface area, making it difficult to get the right gestures in — especially when running and sweaty.
The compact size makes for a nice, small carrying case you can easily slip in your pocket, alongside your massive folding phone. The case features wireless charging on the bottom and adds another 18 hours to the buds’ on-board five hours of life — assuming you keep the active noise canceling off. With it on, you’ll lose a few hours, but that likely won’t be an issue for most tasks. Either way, you’re getting a fair bit more than the Buds 2’s 20-hour rating with the case.
The sound quality on the buds is extremely solid. That’s all the better if you get the 24-bit audio working — though, again, that requires a Galaxy device. Also, the tech is only supported by a handful of streaming services like Tidal and Qobuz, meaning you’re out of luck with Spotify. Let’s be honest, streaming sound quality has never been a major priority for the service.
The improved “intelligent” active noise cancelation is the top line feature here. The tech automatically adjusts to your surroundings via the on-board mics to block out specific ambient sounds. It works quite well. It’s not the most powerful ANC I’ve tested by any stretch, but it does well adjusting to a noisy street.
The Buds 2 Pro are an excellent addition to Samsung’s excellent bud lineup. Are they $100 better than the standard Buds? In a majority of cases, I’d say not really, no. The money gets you improved ANC, better sound and some more battery life. Those are welcome changes, but taken as a whole, the specific improvements feel like a $50 upgrade, if I had to put a specific number on it.
But they’re great buds, none the less. If you own a Galaxy device and have $230 kicking around, by all means, go for it.